Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Monday, October 16, 2017

Standing on the Promises


Beginning October 22 here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church we are beginning a sermon series with the title “Thessalonian Songs” that will relate a Christian song or hymn to a passage from the First letter to the Thessalonians. Last weeks sermon finishing up our series on "Wilderness Wandering" can be found here.

Our first sermon, relates 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 to the hymn “Standing on the Promises” written in 1886 by R. Kelso Carter. What you may not know about R. Kelso Carter is that he was born and bred in Baltimore.

As a boy he was a star athlete and a top student. At the age of fifteen during a prayer meeting at the Pennsylvania Military Academy he made a Christian commitment. He became an athletics coach and instructor at the academy. His history, both personal and theological, passed through some deep and disturbing waters as he searched for balance in his belief.

In 1879 he nearly died from a chronic heart disease that had plagued him for over seven years. His Christian life up to that point had been, like it is for many of us, rather sporadic. In his own words “He lived the up and down experience so familiar to the average church member.” I'll let him tell the story of his deepening commitment.

My heart, resisting the remedies of physicians and refusing to grow better, suddenly broke down so seriously as to bring me to the verge of the grave. I had heard of the 'prayer of faith' for healing, but I felt persuaded it would border on blasphemy to ask God for a strength which I didn't propose to use wholly for Him! Kneeling in my mother's room in Baltimore, I made a consecration that covered everything. All doubtful things were swept aside. I meant every word, and I have never had doubts about it since. A quietness came over me and I found the Bible wonderfully open and marvelously satisfying, as it had never been before.

Though his health was never perfect, he lived for another 49 years and became both a Methodist preacher and a physician. Out of his experience of healing he wrote the hymn “Standing on the Promises of God.” In words that we can well apply to the days we are currently living through he writes: “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God.

Paul praises the Thessalonian Church for their ability to stand on God's promises when he writes (1Thessalonians 1:3) “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

The challenge for all of us is to embrace a faith that goes beyond simply offering cries for help to God when we think we can't manage on our own... to having the sort of faith that finds its very life and focus in the promises of Scripture and the sustaining power of God's Holy Spirit. Such is the journey Jesus challenges us to make, not as lone rangers, but as communities of faith, seeking to bring the Kingdom of God alive in our communities.

For some music, country singer Alan Jackson gives a live performance of this classic R. Kelso Carter hymn “Standing On The Promises of God.” If you are in the area, join us this Sunday and sing a long!

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

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